Burning questions: Wallabies spring tour

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The Wallabies share a lighter moment before the England Test in June. Photo: Scott BarbourWill Michael Cheika roll the dice with Marika Koroibete? 
Nanjing Night Net

The Wallabies coach was quick to hit back at suggestions he was cheapening the jersey by including the Melbourne Storm winger in the European touring party, saying Koroibete had not received a cap yet.

Of all tours, the spring tour presents itself as the perfect platform to unleash the speedy winger who scored 12 tries from 25 games in the NRL this year.

Why not give Koroibete a go against France? Particularly given that match does not count towards Australia’s quest for the glorious grand slam against Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England.

The Wallabies are criticised by former players and sections of the media for not crossing the tryline enough, so the irony of the whole Koroibete signing is Cheika cannot please everyone when asked if he is devaluing the jersey when he has brought over a point-scoring threat.

Without putting Koroibete in the same echelon as another Storm league convert in Israel Folau, there was a great deal of optimism at luring the incumbent Wallabies fullback to the fifteen-a-side code in 2013.

Cheika’s mantra is building depth in positions, so if he sticks true to that policy, expect Koroibete to get his chance out wide at some point in November.

Can the Wallabies really complete the grand slam? 

Even if you look past the spin that improvements are made after each Test, the Wallabies are every chance of doing what no Australian team has done since 1984.

Remember, there have only been two grand slam attempts since 1984 – in 2009 and 2013.

While a lot has changed in the last 12 months, the momentum the Wallabies built at the World Cup goes to show winning consistently in the northern hemisphere is possible.

Wales have beaten the Wallabies just twice from 26 games since 1991, while Scotland have been below their best of late, losing three of their last four matches against the remaining teams Australia will play over the next five weeks.

The Wallabies’ tight-five are relatively settled and despite injuries, Australia’s backs have showed promise, particularly when they play in their proper positions.

Will Australia’s inexperience matter?

Of the 11 Wallabies players to make their Test debuts this year, 10 have been retained in the squad, bar Leroy Houston, whose late call up wouldn’t be the surprise of the century given he is already over in Bath.

The likes of Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Allan Alaalatoa and Tom Robertson have surprised many but have little experience in European conditions.

There is a notable absence of senior players, more so than in other campaigns. However, giving the odd Test – or mid-week game against the French Barbarians – to a handful of fresh-faced future prospects can only be beneficial in the year after a World Cup. 

Too green? Dane Haylett-Petty is one of many Wallabies with little experience in Europe. Photo: Warren Little

Is it time for a change in the back-row?

The Wallabies need David Pocock starting and should make the most of him before he spends 2017 hanging with animals in Africa and plying his trade in Japan.

Lopeti Timani started in the Australia’s last game, against New Zealand, because Pocock was returning from injury, meaning he is no certainly to line up at No.8 on November 5 (November 6 in Australia) at Millennium Stadium.

The bottom line is Pocock and Michael Hooper are workhorses and to be without one for half a game would make little sense. 

Workhorses: Michael Hooper and David Pocock. Photo: Stu Forster

Cheika seems hell-bent on sticking with Dean Mumm at No.6, something he has done since the South Africa Test in Brisbane.

Scott Fardy has fallen out of favour while Sean McMahon has played at blindside breakaway at Super Rugby level so is also another option there.

But that would deprive Australia of an option at the lineout, something that was no more stark than in Sydney for Bledisloe game one when they were picked off at ease by the All Blacks’ Kieran Read and Brodie Retallick.

What do the Wallabies do with Israel Folau? 

The moment Samu Kerevi went down with an ankle injury in Auckland, the calls grew louder for Folau to get a go at outside centre.

Cheika says it will happen on the tour, so the Wallabies style of play isn’t completely predictable to other teams. 

Try drought: Israel Folau is in his longest dry period in his 48-Test career. Photo: Hannah Peters

Folau generally attacks at No.13 and defends at fullback, so the number on his back, despite it being a talking point all year, matters far less.

Wherever he plays, the heat is on the 27-year-old, for he has not crossed for a try in seven matches – his biggest drought in 48 Tests.

Folau scores a try every 2.4 Tests (20 from 48) but is more prolific against France (three tries from four Tests), Scotland (one from one) and Wales (three from three).

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.